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Earlier Days on the Monitor

GUERNSEY LEPELLEY was a cartoonist who could have qualified for membership in Washington's Gridiron Club. The group's roast of politicians each year has followed this guideline since its founding in 1885: ``The Gridiron may singe but it never burns.'' LePelley's passing brought back a flood of memories of my early days on the Monitor. It was right at the end of World War II when reporters like DeWitt John, John Beaufort, and Henry Hayward, who had been in the service, were returning to the paper. I had just joined the Monitor, still in uniform simply because I hadn't had time yet to find and purchase civilian clothes.

That was a Golden Age for print journalism - before television captured much of the news-presentation spotlight.

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As a copy editor, I kept my head down most of the time. A demanding copy-desk chief, Harry Hazeldine, saw to it that my diligence rarely eased. Hazeldine was a perfectionist. I can't say that I enjoyed my four years on the desk. But in later years I came to realize that I was fortunate to have been trained by Hazeldine.

When I could find a moment to look up from the desk, I could see some of the best in the business at that time - or at any time. The Monitor's editor, Erwin Canham, was one of the outstanding people in our profession. He was a friendly though somewhat shy man. Among his peers and heads of journalism schools Canham was regarded as a ``great editor.''

Nearby, I could see two other fine editors at work, Saville Davis and Charles Gratke. Davis watched over the Monitor's news-gathering process all around the nation and Gratke headed our much-acclaimed network of foreign correspondents.

I worked on Saville Davis's staff for a few years before becoming a reporter, first in Chicago, then in New York, and finally to Washington. He always made us feel we were working with him, not under him. And he was unvaryingly gentle.

Davis was a remarkably fine teacher. I have kept many long letters in which he dissected some of my stories and showed me how they could be improved. I can still hear him saying, ``Write out of your experiences - not about them.''

Davis's top stars were in Washington: Roscoe Drummond, Richard L. Strout, and Joseph C. Harsch.

Gratke, in the opposite corner of the room from Canham, was a rather frightening figure - at least to the younger Monitor staffers. He seemed stern, aloof. Yet through the years, I've come to know many of the Monitor's correspondents who worked for Gratke and all say how close they felt to him.

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Gratke concentrated on his job and his correspondents - making sure they knew what he wanted and making sure, too, that they got his quick praise when they delivered what he needed.

Gratke's stable of correspondents included Ed Stevens (who won a Pulitzer); Gordon Walker, a fearless war correspondent; John Allan May, with that wonderful light touch; and many more. Daniel Schorr was one of Gratke's ``finds,'' writing out of Europe for the Monitor.

On the business side of the Monitor at that time there was John Hoagland, Sr., just taking over as manager after leaving the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he had been playing an important management role in making that paper so outstanding.

Hoagland interviewed me in Louisville, just as I was leaving the military. I later got my job offer - I think it was the princely sum of $65 a week.

But it had been my life's ambition to be with the Monitor. I didn't hesitate, and nearly 45 years later, I can affirm the work has been steady - and rewarding.

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